If you’ve not read Chapter One of SCRAPPED, you can find it here. In the mean time, here’s chapter two. The book will be available December 31, 2012, which means I will have had TWO books published in the same year. But who’s counting, right?
Well, if it isn’t the scrapbook queen, looking like hell on a Sunday afternoon,” Beatrice said to Sheila as she walked in the kitchen, where they were all gathered.
Sheila waved her off and walked by her. Vera just shook her head. Sheila and Vera were best friends from childhood, and Beatrice loved to pick on Sheila, just for the fun of it.
“Nice to see you, Bea,” Annie said.
“At least someone around here has some manners,” Beatrice said.
“What are you doing here?” Annie asked.
“I came to see my grandbaby and was just on my way out. The child is sound asleep.”
“I went to the store, came back, Mom was here, and Cookie had things under control,” Vera said.
Cookie poked her head in from around the corner. “Yes, Elizabeth went straight down after you left. I made soup and tried to get your mother to stay.”
“I will now,” Beatrice said. “If everybody else is going to eat the vegetarian organic stuff she calls food, I guess it can’t be so bad.”
Beatrice hated to admit it, but the pumpkin soup did smell heavenly. But she thought all of this vegetarian, back-to-the-earth stuff was nonsense. She suspected that if any of these young, flighty types had to survive from “living from the earth,” they wouldn’t know the first thing about it. But she couldn’t help but like this Cookie—even though she had many of the characteristics Beatrice would have despised in anybody else.
First, she was too damned thin—even thinner than Annie. The woman looked like she needed a big, thick, bloody steak. She was pale and wispy, with long black hair, which she sometimes pulled off her face with a thick, colorful headband. Eastern-looking silver jewelry always dangled from her. Her eyes were almost unnaturally green, and she carefully applied a bit too much eye make-up. While Vera, her own daughter, changed hair color more frequently than anybody she’d ever known, Beatrice preferred the natural look.
Cookie was a yoga teacher and taught classes in Vera’s dance studio. Yoga was a good thing, Beatrice knew, but this woman took herself a bit too seriously with all the “Namastes” and “Peace be with yous.” Who did she think she was? A divine messenger?
Ah, well, she chalked it up to youth. Basically, Cookie was a good sort—very good with Elizabeth, Bea’s one and only granddaughter. She sat down at the kitchen table with the other women. God knows what they were chattering about. She wasn’t paying a bit of attention. She suddenly thought of going upstairs and waking up Elizabeth just so she could hold her, play with her. Of course, she’d never do that—not in front of Vera, anyway.
“Did you hear me?” Vera was suddenly sitting next to her. “A drowned person washed up in the park today.”
“What? In Cumberland Creek?” Beatrice said, clutching her chest. Cumberland Creek, population twelve thousand, going on twenty thousand or so. When Beatrice was a girl, there was a fuss about the population reaching 750. It was two thousand for twenty years or so. She lost count a few years back with all the new housing development on the west side of town. McMansions.
“Yes, in the river at the park,” Vera said. “Scary.”
“I imagine. Who was it?” she asked Annie, who was sitting down at the table next to Vera.
“I have no idea. Detective Bryant said they might know her name by tomorrow.”
“Her?” Beatrice replied.
“It was sort of hard to tell, but there was a lot of long red hair,” Annie said, twisting her own wavy black hair behind her ear.
“Hmm. I don’t know of many redheads around here. Do you? Of course, sometimes I feel like I don’t know half the people here anymore.”
“Could be from somewhere else,” Annie said, just as bowls of steaming pumpkin soup were being passed around the table.
The scent of the spiced pumpkin reached out and grabbed Beatrice. The scent of pumpkin, spiced with cinnamon and cumin, filled the room. Suddenly she was nearly salivating in anticipation. She reached for a slice of the crusty whole wheat bread—still warm from the oven—and spread butter on it. Goodness, Cookie had gone to a lot of trouble; she had even baked bread.
“Great soup, Cookie,” Vera said and sighed. “You didn’t have to do this. I wasn’t expecting you to bake bread . . . just watch Lizzie while I went out for a bit of exercise and groceries.”
“Now, don’t worry about it,” Cookie said. “Since she went right to sleep, I had some time on my hands. I just wanted to help out. I know how hard it can be. I was raised by a single mom.”
Beatrice grimaced at the phrase “single mother,” which was not what she wanted for her daughter, who wouldn’t let her ex move back in—no matter how much he begged. Thank the universe, Bill had moved out of Beatrice’s house and into his own apartment, finally. Beatrice hoped that it would work out—for the baby’s sake—but Vera wasn’t interested. Beatrice couldn’t blame her for that. Also, Vera was seeing a man in New York. They rarely saw each other, and Vera had yet to bring him home to Cumberland Creek. She stole away to New York when she could. Beatrice doubted that it was serious. Bill, however, was seething. Served him right.
So there was another unexplained death in the small, but growing town of Cumberland Creek. Beatrice mused that things had just calmed down from the Maggie Rae case. Just what the town needed: more media attention, more outsiders, as if the new McMansion dwellers on the outskirts of town weren’t enough for her and the other locals to manage. Beatrice hated to generalize about folks, but they all thought they were mighty important.
“So, does the death look suspicious?” Beatrice asked.
“I hate to say it,” Annie said, dipping her bread into the creamy orange soup. “But it does to me. It looks like she was placed in a sack. I’m not sure she could have put herself in it. And there were these weird markings on her arm.”
“Markings?” Vera said. “Like scratches?”
“Sort of,” Annie said. “It might not mean anything.” She turned back to her soup. “Man, this is good, Cookie.”
A smile spread across Cookie’s face. “Thanks.”
Cookie didn’t smile like that often, Beatrice mused. It wasn’t that she was gloomy; she always had a look of bemused happiness. But it was in her eyes and the way she spoke.
Beatrice tuned out the chitchatting. Until they knew it was a murder, what was the point in speculating? She didn’t want to believe there was another murder in this community. Damn, the soup and bread were just what she needed today. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was.
Just then there was a knock at the door. It was Detective Bryant, who walked into the kitchen.
“I heard you were at the park this morning,” he said to Sheila. “Did you see anything suspicious?”
He looked happy, like a man with a mission, energetic.
Sheila thought for a moment. “No. It was pretty quiet. But if I remember anything, I’ll let you know.”
“Oh my God, it smells heavenly in here,” he said, stretching his arms, then turning around to see Beatrice. “But look what the devil brought in.”
Beatrice swallowed her soup. “Bite me, Bryant.”
The detective sure could hold a grudge. But then again, so could Beatrice.